“I was told by a doctor at Dhamtari Christian Hospital that I have cancer from head to toe. They said I might not survive. Then a nurse advised me to come here for healing prayer sessions and surrender myself to Christ. I took her advice and came here and I am all fine now,” narrated a woman from a village in Dhamtari district, Chhattisgarh.
As per the 2001 census, the scheduled tribes form 31.8 per cent of the total population in the state of Chhattisgarh. How many of these remain in the Hindu fold is unknown.
Subodh Rathi runs a school and college in Dhamtari and is also a worker of Dharma Sena, a Hindu organization that works towards safeguarding the tribal population from missionaries. In a Mission Kaali documentary, Rathi revealed that lakhs of villagers and tribals have been converted to Christianity in Chhattisgarh.
“I am working in this field for the past 16 years. 99 per cent of villagers give just one reason for conversion and that is ‘healing.’ If the miracle healing does everything then why are the missionaries operating a 500-bed hospital in the district?” said Rathi talking about the malicious and deceitful methods deployed by Christian missionaries for conversion.
Rathi’s question as well as concern is valid. Here are a few images of Dhamtai Christian Hospital with Jesus in their logo and a chapel on their campus. Now, almost every hospital has a temple or a prayer room. However, what a hospital does not have are nurses who send the patients to ‘miracle healing centres.’
“A member from our Sahu community went to Dhamtari Christian Hospital after falling sick. He recovered but returned as a Christian. We told him that he can continue to visit the healing centre but cannot convert. He objected to us and started saying that Jesus is supreme. Lord Ram, Ganesha and Mahesh are all His creations and that Jesus too is an avatar. He is no longer a part of our community,” said Videshi Ram Sahu, a member of Gram Panchayat.
The process of indoctrination
Christian missionaries and evangelical organizations are best known for their multilevel marketing techniques. Their network comprises healthcare centres, education centres and everything that a family living in the hinterland or below the line of poverty is in need of.
“The missionaries have built a huge hostel in the city. They encourage the youth of villages to move to the cities for education and assure them of providing accommodation. They also promise the 16-17-year-olds that they will be taught spoken English if they stay in their hostel,” revealed Rathi.
But here’s the catch. “The kids leave their homes to stay in the hostel with the hope to get a good education. With English course begins the 3 months, 6 months 1 year and 3 years of Bible training and pastor training course. When the kids return to their villages, they refuse to visit temples or even accept prasad. They say we believe only in Christ,” Rathi said further.
In another documentary, Sukki Bhawani says that we are made to close our eyes and sing Hallelujiah. “We were told to stop installing idols on Ganesh and Durga puja. They asked us to not accept prasad as well. I went there as my husband is an alcoholic and does not earn. But neither did my husband quit drinking nor did we prosper,” Bhawani shared further.
Threats and attempts to create disharmony
However, this is not where it stops. Rathi in the documentary further reveals how the missionaries create a rift in an otherwise peaceful village.
“We have no problem with anyone converting to Christianity. But, the problem is when they are trained to create tensions in the village. The missionaries give them tasks like desecrating and urinating on Hindu god idols to prove their loyalty to Jesus and complete their conversion. The village is never at peace after that,” said Rathi.
Amitabh Soni, a social worker who freed the village of Kekadiya, Madhya Pradesh from missionaries has cases filed against him under the SC/ST Act for being a hindrance to evangelists.
“A boy from the village went to Indore in hunt of opportunities. There he got converted to Christianity and returned to the village to convert others. When we tried to talk to him, false cases were filed against other workers and me under the SC/ST Act for alleged harassment,” revealed Soni.
He further informed that he was interrogated multiple times owing to the complaint. “Had an FIR been filed, I would have been in police remand for three months,” said Soni.
Inculturation: From Yeshu Jayanthi to Yeshu Kathakali
While one Abrahamic religion tolerates no misappropriation of their culture, the other looks for opportunities to disguise the Gospel in local culture and traditions.
The concept of inculturation is deeply enshrined in Christianity. It “denotes the presentation and re-expression of the Gospel informs and terms proper to a culture.”
In this blog from 2011, Fr Joy Chencheril thought it was a great idea for Christians to promote the dying art of kathakali. Brief episodes from the life of Jesus were then enacted in a kathakali drama.
Even today emails are sent to Hindus to give the message of ‘Moksha’ as explained by Jesus. The emails also preach how one can make Christ their ‘Ishta Deva.’
“The innocent villagers are made to believe that Jesus is one among the 33 crore Hindu Gods. They are told that Jesus is also an incarnation of some Hindu god,” revealed Soni.
The missionaries on the one hand discourage the likes of Bhawani from celebrating Ganesh and Durga festivals, but on the other welcome Yeshu bhajans.
Yet, it occurred to no one that if Jesus is one among the 33 crore Gods then why are they stopped from believing in the other 32,99,99,99. In fact, why are they made to insult other Hindu gods when Jesus is just another avatar?
Did no one think of questioning why they are made to worship an idol of Christ but asked to desecrate other Hindu god idols because ‘idol worship’ is a sin? Singing a Hindu bhajan is blasphemous but dancing to Halleliuah isn’t?
Well, the concept of inculturation is not limited to just Hindus. Here is one Esther Gill singing ‘yeshu kirtan.’
The state of Punjab with 57 per cent Sikh population now has Shromani Church Parbhandak Committee and individual cults in the form of Christian Deras.
In a virtual conference, professor Madhu Kishwar shared how the missionaries attach aspirational values to the religion as bait to attract the gullible. It is an easy choice if a person struggling to make the ends meet is offered job opportunities or avenues to earn better.
Claiming that the pandemic lockdown was ‘godsent’ the missionaries converted as many as 1 lakh people and adopted 50,000 villages in a span of one year. Need for medical aid and two squares meals amidst the financial crisis, pushed the economically weaker section into the trap of missionaries. The missionaries also built a record number of churches in thousands of villages where none existed before.